April 17, 2014
What You Need to Know
Cueto in Control
The Wednesday Takeaway
A fall and winter of rest enabled Cueto to come to spring training at full strength. And if his results through four starts are any indication, he may be better than ever.
Cueto worked seven innings in each of his first three starts of the year, and he held the Cardinals, Mets, and Rays to no more than two runs apiece. On Wednesday afternoon, he turned things up a notch, going the distance and keeping the Pirates off the board entirely.
Clint Hurdle’s lineup cobbled together three hits—a double by Andrew McCutchen and singles by Tony Sanchez and Jordy Mercer—but no Pittsburgh player came within 90 feet of crossing the plate. Meanwhile, Cueto racked up a career-high 12 strikeouts without issuing a walk. It was his best punchout total in a walk-less outing since his major-league debut, which came against the Diamondbacks on April 3, 2008.
Cueto has long relied on a deep arsenal, mixing two types of fastballs with a cutter, a slider, a curveball, and a changeup. He leaned on his secondary pitches as much as ever in yesterday’s gem, using his two- and four-seam heaters a combined 33 times (30.8 percent) in 107 offerings.
The changeup was his bread-and-butter on Wednesday, yielding 12 strikes in 17 tries (all of them swinging, five of them whiffs). Cueto also had excellent command of his two-seam fastball, which enabled him to take advantage of home-plate umpire Quinn Wolcott’s generous inside corner to left-handed batters.
Francisco Liriano, who got the ball for the Pirates, had no such luck with his heater in the early going. He walked Billy Hamilton and then watched the speedy outfielder steal second, move to third on a wild pitch, and score on another one. The Reds tacked on two more runs on a Joey Votto homer in the bottom of the seventh and another in the eighth, but Cueto’s masterpiece rendered them superfluous.
For a Reds club off to a rocky, 6-9 start, Cueto’s three-hitter was, in the words of first-year manager Bryan Price, “a huge boost.” It avenged Cincinnati’s loss to Pittsburgh in last year’s National League Wild Card Game, when Liriano outdueled Cueto, and helped the Reds earn a 2-2 split on the heels of four straight series losses to begin 2014.
Quick Hits from Wednesday
Tanaka went eight innings in the matinee portion of the doubleheader, permitting only a couple of bunt singles and striking out 10. The right-hander has now collected at least eight strikeouts in each of his first three stateside starts, putting him one shy of the four-start record currently held by Stephen Strasburg.
Pineda chipped in six zeroes in the nightcap, scattering four hits and a walk while striking out three, before giving way to the bullpen. Eighteen innings into his return from shoulder surgery, Pineda now owns a 1.00 ERA and a 15-to-3 K:BB ratio, excellent work for any starter, but particularly for one whose career was up in the air before the season began.
The Yankees’ scoreless day-night sweep was the first completed by any club since the Twins kept the Athletics off the board twice on June 26, 1988. The Cubs, who went a combined 9-for-61 at the plate across the two games, are still winless in the Bronx in franchise history. They suffered a sweep in their most recent visit, an interleague series in 2005, and were broomed away in both of their World Series matchups with the Yankees, in 1932 and 1938.
Since at least 1914, only 18 pitchers have struck out 13 batters in a 1-0 defeat. Cliff Lee was the most recent one to do it when he woke up on Wednesday morning, and the most recent when he went to bed last night. The only difference is, he’s now the only pitcher in a century to suffer that cruel fate twice.
Lee allowed 11 hits in his complete-game loss to the Braves but escaped jam after jam with his outstanding command. He needed a career-high 128 pitches to record all 27 outs but had no trouble finding the zone in the late innings. B.J. Upton, the only Brave who drew a walk, did so in the fifth. The top four batters in Fredi Gonzalez’s order accounted for 10 of Lee’s 13 Ks.
Unfortunately for Lee, the Phillies’ bats were stymied by Julio Teheran, who joined Cueto in the three-hitter club but relied much more on his defense than the Reds’ ace. Teheran struck out four without walking a batter. He induced 10 of the other 23 outs on grounders and the remaining 13 through the air.
The 23-year-old Colombian got all the support he needed on a fourth-inning solo shot by Evan Gattis, who went yard twice in the series opener on Monday before sitting out Tuesday’s middle match. Gattis notched three other hits off of Lee last night to become the first player to go 4-for-4 with a big fly in a 1-0 victory since Rogers Hornsby did it way back in 1929.
Lee paid the price for one of his few location mistakes—an 0-2 fastball that came too close to the inside edge. It found Gattis’ down-and-in power alley and made all the difference in Lee’s second straight tough-luck loss to the Braves.
The Defensive Play of the Day
What to Watch for on Thursday